Doing the Right Thing

Last July, following an interview with Earthyn Cousins, director, America's Second Harvest, I explained what needed to be done, from a packaging and material handling point of view, for this worthy organization.

As the articulate Cousins explained, America's Second Harvest's needs are many, particularly in the critical sphere of material handling and shipping management. The organization has been feeding the less fortunate of this nation for more than a quarter century. More recently it has added to its rolls families of National Guard soldiers fighting for the freedom of others even less fortunate. The irony of this has not escaped everyone, only the majority.

Currently, the organization manages more than seven million square feet of warehouse space. Annually it moves more than 1.8 billon pounds of food and groceries provided by 550 national donors and thousands of local donors. It supports 62,000 local agencies, operating more than 94,000 food programs.

That's a lot of material handling. It's a lot of supply chain management, and it's a lot of opportunity to excel. "Over the years we've helped more than 37 million people," Cousins told me. "While the homeless person is the face most people see when they think of hunger in America, in fact only 10 percent of people going hungry in this country are homeless."

Most hungry people are living paycheck to shrinking paycheck. When an employer can do something to benefit those he does not know, he also helps his own employees and business.

I'm remiss in referring to "hungry people." It's currently more politically correct to call these fellow Americans "the food insecure community."

Let's forget the ironies and inane political correctness of names and see what at least one of our colleagues is doing. CHEP, the global pallet and container pooling provider, has formed an alliance with America's Second Harvest that will encourage (to the benefit of all) donations of food from manufacturers. It appears this alliance will also facilitate the return of empty pallets and containers to CHEP's service centers for inspection and maintenance.

This is not just talk. CHEP ran a pilot program last year to iron out the kinks and now offers proof that this can work. Here's the deal: Members of America's Second Harvest Network (the many companies already donating food and other needed commodities) can now join with the CHEP pooling system and receive formal status as CHEP participants. That means they can receive products shipped on CHEP pallets, or packed in CHEP equipment from participating manufacturers, growers and distributors.

Food and grocery product donors will no longer have to switch from blue CHEP pallets to "white" wood pallets (pallets not part of CHEP's pooling program). Not having to switch pallets means saving time and human power. And it means not having to incur the cost of rental fees or lost-equipment charges with CHEP.

All the donor will be obligated to do is report any transfer of CHEP pallets to America's Second Harvest distribution centers. Under this unique agreement, America's Second Harvest will have a classification within the CHEP system intended to eliminate donation barriers at CHEP participants. America's Second Harvest will work to consolidate CHEP equipment at its larger food banks to be picked up without charge and returned to CHEP's service centers. Auditing and accounting has been designed to eliminate pallet liability risks for any member.

Elton Potts, senior vice president of asset management at CHEP says, "Besides lowering costs for the food banks [they no longer have to purchase or transport pallets], this kind of agreement helps to bring hunger issues to the forefront."

And CHEP puts its food where its mouth is. For a recent food drive at its Orlando offices, employees collected about 7,500 pounds of nonperishable foods for the local food bank.

How much time, money and pallet fees will this save? Who cares? Let's think in human terms and how many more people will not go hungry tonight.

Clyde E. Witt

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